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Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4x4 SLT Plus Pickup (2000)

SEE ALSO: Dodge Buyer's Guide

by Carey Russ

The part of DaimlerChrysler formerly known as the Chrysler Corporation has achieved much success over the past few years by exploiting new automotive niches. A case in point is the Dodge Dakota. At different times, Dodge has considered it to be the world's only midsized pickup, or the largest compact pickup. It's smaller than a full-sized pickup, and so is easier to park in an urban or suburban setting. Yet, even though compact pickups have grown over the years, the Dakota is larger than any current compact truck, and, unlike any compact, it has available V8 engines for extra performance. Any way you look at it, the Dakota is unique, and it has become even more so for the 2000 model year with the introduction of the Quad Cab body style.

The second-generation Dakota debuted in 1997, and featured styling inspired by the its stablemate, the ground-breaking full-sized Dodge Ram. Regular cab and "Club Cab" (Dodge for extended cab) versions were available at that time. The Quad Cab follows in the footsteps of the Ram Quad Cab: a larger extended- cab body with four real doors and room inside for up to six people. It's not the first such compact truck to market, but it is larger than any competitors, with generous interior space and greater cargo area. And, unlike the new breed of sport-utilities with cargo beds, the Dakota Quad Cab is a pickup, and retains all pickup functionality.

As before, a distinguishing feature of the Dakota is the availability of V8 power for serious towing and hauling use, or for muscle-truck performance in the case of the R/T model. For the 2000 model year, Dakota buyers have the choice of two V8 engines. The 5.9-liter R/T engine continues, but the venerable 5.2- liter pushrod V8 has been replaced by the new, more efficient "Next Generation 4.7 liter Magnum" V8. The new engine produces more useable power than the old one, with improved fuel efficiency and lower exhaust emissions.

The Quad Cab is merely the newest Dakota model. Regular and Club Cab versions are also offered, with a wide choice of engines and equipment and trim levels, and two- or four-wheel drive. A four-wheel drive Quad Cab with the 4.7-liter V8 is my current transportation. It reminds me of a Swiss Army knife or one of those multi-function tools - it is definitely not a vehicle with limited use. At the SLT+ trim level, it is a very civilized personal- use truck with the interior room of a mid-sized sedan or SUV. It's as quiet and nearly as comfortable as a family sedan, but has considerably more carrying and towing ability.

APPEARANCE: The second-generation Dakota borrows heavily from the Ram for its style. This is good - it gives a definable Dodge truck look, with a powerful bulging hood and retro-look lowered fenders. And, thanks to its lean-but-muscular proportions, the Dakota Quad Cab is a very good-looking truck. The five-foot, three-inch cargo bed is longer than those of the new-breed SUV- truck hybrids, or other compact four-door pickups. It improves both the Dakota's appearance and versatility. The top-end SLT+ appearance and option package includes chrome trim on the Dodge-trademark crosshair grille and bumpers, and contrast- colored trim on the fender flares and lower side cladding. The large truck tires and five-spoke alloy wheels add clearance and complete the rugged-but-elegant 4x4 look.

COMFORT: The Dakota Quad Cab in SLT+ trim has all of the comforts and room of a midsized sedan. Its velour-covered front and rear contoured bench seats hold four people very comfortably, and can hold up to six. Interior space is very comparable to that of a "six-passenger" midsized sedan, but the Quad Cab is more versatile. The center front seatback folds down to convert to a console; the rear seat is split 60/40, with cushions that flip up to convert the rear passenger area to secure cargo storage. Access is easy, too, because of the four full-sized doors. Even though it's a fairly high 4x4, access is easy, and helped by grab handles for all positions. The instrument panel is more squarish than is currently popular, but all of the instruments and controls are placed for easy use and visibility. Options galore are available, and my test truck was equipped with nearly all, including power mirrors, windows, and doorlocks with remote entry, and good climate control and sound systems. The cargo bed is longer than that of other small four-door pickups. With the tailgate down, it's long enough to sleep in on camping trips, or hold bicycles easily.

SAFETY: The 2000 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab pickup meets all current safety standards, and also complies with 2003 head-impact standards.

ROADABILITY: Remember when pickups were bouncy, noisy, and uncomfortable? Dodge engineers would rather not, and so the Dakota Quad Cab, even in 4x4 trim, feels more like a sedan than a truck. Even unloaded, the ride is not choppy, thanks in no small part to the air-suspension effect of the massive 31x10.5 R15 light- truck tires. Good soundproofing keeps road and wind noise to levels most commonly associated with family cars, not trucks, and all-around visibility is excellent in the manner of a pickup. The steering is light, and, despite the huge tires, the Dakota has no tendency to wander on the highway. The four-wheel drive system is operated by a lever on the floor for reliability in extreme conditions.

PERFORMANCE: With 235 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque from the new 4.7-liter single overhead cam V8 engine, the Dakota Quad Cab is ready for any task necessary. Acceleration is very good, and steep hills present no problems. The optional "multi- speed" automatic transmission is an electronically-controlled four- speed with two different second gear ratios, one used for acceleration from a stop, and the other used during kickdown from third gear. It was designed especially to work with the 4.7-liter V8, and they make an excellent combination. With the proper axle ratio, towing ability can be up to 5,800 lbs.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2000 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab pickup offers comfort, convenience, and power in a usefully-sized package.

2000 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4x4 SLT Plus Pickup

Base Price                 $ 21,615
Price As Tested            $ 28,845
Engine Type                single overhead cam 16-valve V8
Engine Size                4.7 liters / 287 cu. in.
Horsepower                 235 @ 4800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)             295 @ 3200 rpm
Transmission               4-speed (multispeed) electronically-
                             controlled automatic
Wheelbase / Length         131.0 in. / 215.1 in.
Curb Weight                4525 lbs.(est.)
Pounds Per Horsepower      19.25
Fuel Capacity              24 gal.
Fuel Requirement           unleaded regular, 87 octane
Tires                      LT 31x10.5 R15 Goodyear Wrangler
Brakes, front/rear         vented disc / drum, antilock optional
Suspension, front/rear     independent dual A-arm with torsion
                             bars / solid axle with leaf springs
Drivetrain                 front engine, on-demand four-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed       14 / 19 / 15
0 to 60 mph                     8.5  sec
1/4 mile (E.T.)                 16.2 sec
Towing capacity                 5,800 lbs with 3.92:1 axle ratio

Customer Preferred Package 26G - includes:
  SLT decor group, air conditioning, bright grille and bumpers,
  tilt steering wheel, floor mats              $ 1,220
Heavy-duty service group - includes:
  heavy-duty engine cooling, auxiliary transmission oil cooler,
  750 amp battery                              $    180
Trailer tow group                              $    275
Power overhead convenience group - includes: overhead console, 
  auto day/night mirror                        $    185
Two-tone paint                                 $    195
SLT Plus decor package - includes: 15x8 aluminum wheels and 
  31x10.5R15 all-season tires,power locks, mirrors,
  windows, keyless entry                       $  1,285
Four-wheel antilock brakes                     $    495
Next-generation 4.7-liter Magnum V8 with
  136-amp alternator                           $    590
Four-speed automatic transmission              $    975
3.92:1 axle ratio                              $     40
Anti-spin differential                         $    285
Rear window defroster with power heated
  fold-away mirrors                            $    230
Power 6-way driver seat                        $    320
Bodyside molding                               $     75
AM/FM/cassette/CD/equalizer stereo             $    660
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and bedliner    $     50
SLT Plus Group discount                      -($    250)
Customer preferred discount                  -($    100)
Destination charge                             $    520